Interview with Hossein Amirsadeghi for SANCTUARY : Britain’s Artists and their Studios, January 2011
What reaction is elicited from art?
It could be anything. For example, music can follow an equation which makes sense as you listen to it, with the rhythm and how it’s organised. If you break the universe down, it’s like a mathematical equation. When you look at art, the equation the artist has used, the combination of elements – the other person looks at it and decodes it, and makes sense of it, and either likes it or doesn’t like it. Even a composition in the frame of a painting is a mathematical equation. Your mind thinks, Well, that does look nice – it stimulates you, makes you feel something.
Is this a conscious or a subconscious process?
It’s a subconscious thing. Even when you listen with an untrained ear and it doesn’t make sense, if you listen between the notes you find music there. Even if it’s the most abstract, chaotic painting, there’s still a rhythm or a language within that to give it harmony and to explain why the onlooker has stopped doing what they were doing to engage with the work
How much hunger drew you to art?
For some reason I’ve always wanted to paint and create images.
What does that mean? You woke up at the age of five and wanted to paint?
Yes, three or four. I enjoyed painting from a very early age. I’m not the most academic person; why would a child laboriously construct a sentence to describe something when they could just paint that moment or that feeling? It came naturally to me.
Would you call yourself a quiet or a reserved person, a shy boy who wanted to express himself?
As a child you don’t have any of this baggage. You just go to school and have friends, and you are not thinking like that as such. You paint when you want to paint. It’s only when I got older, I suppose … especially when I was a teenager. You have so many questions about the world, and you have that anger or something inside you wanting to find reasons. I liked to paint the unexplained to express myself.
This hunger, is it hunger for fame or for the expression of emotions?
It’s a kind of excited hunger. I want to create what hasn’t been done before, which is a very difficult thing to do. I always thought the saying, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ was a negative outlook on creativity. There are loads of things that haven’t been done before. You just have to think of them and strive for that newness. Imagine if that saying was equated to Science in terms of the chances of making new discoveries?
So you sit in a box at night and think up new things? Or do you start something and then it turns into something new?
The majority of it is hard work, constant work, the battle. You are fighting against yourself, not to make do with being satisfied.
For years when I was giving away paintings as gifts, I was trying to separate what art is worth as money from what art is worth as an image or as a feeling. I was very young, trying to find what it meant that I could paint for free, not necessarily to make money from it. I was painting what I wanted to paint for my own reasons; that was the most important lesson for me. I was painting not what other people wanted to see but what I wanted to show them.
And as a consequence your public profile suddenly ballooned?
I don’t know. People who knew me knew I did it anyway, and those who didn’t know, I guess they found out. But to do a big project in the street I needed to inform the public, so it made sense, conceptually, for people to go out and look for the work. But I am not interested in becoming a celebrity artist. I’d rather my paintings be seen than my face.
What is the studio in your mind?
I don’t need a massive studio. It’s all within: the ideas and the thinking and the feeling. It’s the environment I’m exposed to when the art comes out. You could have the biggest studio in, I don’t know, the South of France, and you could be in this big studio drinking red wine all afternoon, painting pictures of whatever, but 80 per cent of that creativity is you going out into the world and experiencing things. Be it going to a chip shop and seeing somebody having a fight outside or going to a car-boot sale and seeing a load of crazy people stand in front of their crazy personal objects. You don’t need a big studio for that. It all just goes into your head, and you maybe keep a sketch of it.
So your studio essentially is your environment?
Yes, it’s my ideas. I see other artist’s studios where they get quite settled in; they’ve got their chair and their nice collection of stuff that they look at on the wall, their objects or their library or their organised pot of paintbrushes. It has become their environment in such a way that by sitting there they can be creative and start working. Whereas I am quite unorthodox; I’ll have materials with me, but I’ll never be psychologically settled in one place which will be my studio. If someone told me I had to leave that place and go and work somewhere else the next day, it wouldn’t affect me in an emotional way. Mountains of randomly grouped objects form after time (commonly known as chaotic mess). For me, being too organised and tidy is wanting to be in control of your environment. I’m a great lover of chaos and everything it has to offer us. Chaos is the most beautiful maths equation / form of art there is.
Do you have a physical space that you call a studio?
I’ve got a place where I work; I guess it’s a studio. It’s a combination of places: here, São Paulo, my home near Brighton. It’s where my work is which I’ve got with me.
You have not been a part of the standard art scene; you have not gone to an art college. Do you feel yourself to be an outsider?
I always knew I wanted to be an artist, so the main anchor in my life is my art. I continued being an artist even without the fine-art world. I started from an outsider position, not having the classical training and what have you.
You have been called a fearless painter. What does that mean?
I’m not afraid of changing. You want to take advantage of your time, your life on this planet, and do as many pretty things as possible.
That means that you don’t much care what the market thinks of you. Or are you catering to the market?
No matter how you go about your creativity as an artist, you should never lose the initial reason why you started what you do: for the love of art.
Is art elitist?
It depends. It has become more and more accessible over the past ten or twenty years; with the Internet it is a lot more accepted. More people like to be given questions when they see art, and then there are other people who don’t want to have to question the art; they just want to look at it and enjoy it for what it is.
You reference some major influences in your work, from Hockney to Matisse to Bacon to Picasso. What elements do you draw from them?
The drive to keep on creating and not be afraid of changing. Trying different things, like Hockney. Like a scientist who experiments with things to create the atom bomb or a new type of petrol or whatever.
The world of technology we spoke about: it’s effectively killing off that sort of art, isn’t it?
I think the artist will adapt and take on board what is new. When photography was invented, they thought they no longer needed to paint traditional paintings so they decided to paint what the camera could not see. The same can be said for traditional film or 3-D TV..
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being a good father and a good husband. If I’m remembered for anything else , then that’s an added bonus.
Interview with Adam Neate by Hossein AMIRSADEGHI, January 2011 at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms, London
© TransGlobe ref Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and their Studios